MAC Syndrome

Control will always ‘try’ to keep ambulance crews within their complex areas so as to maintain good coverage of the 999 calls that come in.  However, with a computerised system currently in place crews are allocated a job dependant on how close they are to it.  So, if all ambulances are tied up with jobs in one area and you happen to be closest, and regardless of how far away it may be – you will be sent to it.  Its not that uncommon to end up many miles from home by the end of your shift – with nothing but rush hour traffic to look forward to.

There are many ways to tell when an ambulance crew have had the misfortune of suffering this wild goose chase and are a long way from their ‘home complex’.  Obviously there’s the fact that you may never of seen their faces round your local hospital before, but there are subtle differences that give it away too – for example;

  • they may be in better, newer and cleaner vehicles (it is a well known ‘Sunday Sport’ fact that your home complex always has the duff fleet)
  • they may be shy and/or timid when they exit from the ambulance with their patient at hospital (as if the place was laced with booby traps)
  • they may be presenting with an angry or deflated disposition as it is their off-job and they are miles from home
  • they may be shrugging their shoulders and have baffled looks as they stand at the coded entrance to the hospital without a clue on how to get in

The last two descriptions were very appropriate for my crew mate and I as we stood at the A&E entrance of Ealing Hospital, West London W7 3BE (OS Grid Ref TQ 5146 1798 – Latitude/Longitude 51.5062, -0.3498).  We’d tried several ‘standard’ codes on the key pad but none had worked.

A local crew, sitting in their ambulance watching had clocked us for what we were – lost.

Local Crew:       Where you guys out of?
Binder:               Hackney
Local Crew:      **together**  AH-HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Binder:               . . . . !

After gaining the correct code from them we wheeled our patient in but were immediately presented with our next challenge – a T junction in the corridor, with no directions.  I turned back to the entrance and caught the attention of the local crew again.  Shrugging my shoulders and gesturing left or right with a questioning expression they answered helpfully.

Local Crew:      **together**  AH-HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

I smiled through gritted teeth.

Eventually they pointed to my left and we soon found the triage area where we started our handover.  Our patient was an elderly lady who’d been stuck on the floor for a couple of days with a snapped wrist.  When she lifted her arms one hand would dangle as if it were a conker on a string.

During our handover a short squat eastern European man with the cuts and bruises of someone who’d very recently been kicked-the-shit-out-of was marching up and down the department in an unhappy mood.  As he did so he expressed his lack of happiness with shouting, swearing and spitting demands for immediate attention to some apparent pain he was in.


The nurses had the look as if they’d been suffering this man for a loooong time.  And looking round the department we could see it was full of patients in various states of personal suffering – but who were trying to deal with it in their own quiet fashion.  No one seemed at all impressed with ‘cuts and bruises’ man.

We carefully put our patient on a bed and wished her well just as ‘cuts and bruises’ threw himself onto the floor and started thrashing around.  The doctors and nurses asked him to move but this only antagonised him more.

Cuts and Bruises:     I not move!  Give me something for pain!  GIVE ME FUCKING SOMETHING!  YOU FUCKING BASTAAAAAAARDS!  GIVE ME!!!!

My crew mate and I walked across and stood over him with our hands in our pockets.

Binder:                       Oi!!!  Listen to you!  Stop that noise now!
Cuts and Bruises:     BU-
Crew mate:                No!  We said SHUT IT!  Look around you man – there are people here in proper pain.  Not your bloody mincing – so keep your noise down!

‘Cuts and bruises’ sat up, his mouth open.

Cuts and Bruises:     Bu-
Crew mate:                We said SHUT IT!  You are being pathetic.  you’re an utter disgrace.  You should be ashamed of yourself – now get up, sit over there and DON’T say another word!!  UNDERSTAND!?

‘Cuts and bruises’ did as he was told and for the remainder of the time we were there, at least, he didn’t make a sound.

My crew mate turned to the Doctors and nurses at the main desk – who gave him their full attention.

Crew mate:                Bit of a nob really eh.  Guess he’s suffering from MAC Syndrome

Noticing that everyone was slightly perplexed with his diagnosis my crew mate gave them a sidewards grin.

Crew mate:                Man’s a c**t!

We left them all giggling to themselves.